Thursday, July 1, 2010

Repent into Emptiness, Surrender

I’m not really who you think I am, or at least not who I am trying to be. It’s something that’s been tugging on my heart for awhile now, but it’s one of those things that’s really tough to admit and even tougher to address. How do you respond when you look around and your life is a lie?

You start by shutting down, dying to the illusion and the façade, and surrendering to the truth. That’s a good start, anyway. Easier said than done.

Too much of my life was defined by what others said I was – whether it was them convincing the world of that or just my own heart. Someone tells you what they think of you enough times, and you come to believe it for yourself. When I finally took the time to sit down with God and hear His painful truth, that changed everything for me, and those lies vanished. In their place, I embraced some of what I should be, but not all.

Because, I suppose, I wanted the chance to live as I might have been. That seemed the truest redemption to me. A second chance and the opportunity to live as created, to go back in time and capture again those should-have-been moments by living out the original story now.

This isn’t the original story, though, and by trying to wrap my fingers around what never was, I did perhaps more of a disservice to myself than the lies. I went from living as one thing I never was to living as something else entirely that I also never was. Was never meant to be. As the days pass, I grow more discontented each time I open my mouth or look around or take a step.

My life is still driven by all the wrong things. Noble thing, perhaps, in theory, but not in practice. It just seems that from the time I rise each morning until I fall asleep each night, I get more and more distant from myself and from God.

This makes me very unhappy, to say the least.

I’ve been discontented for awhile now. Time and again, I’ve wondered why that is. It would be easy to blame the external stuff, the painstaking job search, the relationships that are all-too-slow to change, the general rut that leaves me restless as I continue to search for purpose in this world. And restlessness does often lead to discontent.

But when I began to look, really look, at the situation, my heart sank. None of the answers to the questions I was asking would have helped my discontent at all. If anything, the answers would have deepened it. They would have stood in testimony that still, there was something off. Something not right here.

Because I am here, driving, pushing, yearning, wrestling. I’m praying but not listening to the answers. And growing in self-hatred feeling like there’s something innately wrong with me.

There is. I’ve finally put my finger on it.

To put it simply, I’m not living as surrendered a life as I’d like. There are many snares too easy for me to fall into, and that’s why I keep falling back into the same patterns that lead to my distress. I don’t fall as deeply these days, but it’s there.

Truthfully, it’s hard to put words to this because it is so much a silent struggle in my heart. It would be easy to get into the excuses, the story of how I got here, but that’s not enough. That’s a story I’ve told myself too often in justification. I’m tired of justification. It is time to drink of the sweet honey where God is calling me.

Drink of it or let it go. Living in the middle, knowing the honey is there but letting fear or frustration or excuse or convenience keep me from enjoying its sweetness, just doesn’t cut it. It’s time to make a choice.

My choice is honey. It is Christ, my Rock. This means several things, the first of which is surrender.

Prayerful nights with God have given me many answers I never wanted to hear. I’m not going to be comfortable in this body or this life or this place until I embrace everything He’s made me…and give up everything He hasn’t.

He hasn’t made me to be loud; He’s created a kind of quiet stillness.

He hasn’t made me to be demanding; He’s created a spirit of graciousness and patience.

He hasn’t created me to be busy; He’s created mindfulness.

He hasn’t created me to be hurried or rushed; He’s created eternity.

He hasn’t created me to walk hard; He’s given a gentle stride.

He hasn’t created me to be panicked or fearful or frustrated or disparaged; He’s provided peace.

Why, then, does my human nature insist on the formers and reject the latters? Somewhere, there is an unhealed portion of my heart that says that one day, God might not be God. He might fail me, leave me, abandon me, or spitefully trick me into falling for His promises.

God is touching that piece of me. As I come to realize how contrary to my true self this life I live is, I repent. That’s not how I want to be; I want the fullness of whatever God’s got for me. First things first, that means wholly welcoming and embracing every little piece of me that He’s designed, that He’s formed through His wisdom. Then, that means living it out.

It’s tempting to run too far the opposite direction here, knowing what God hasn’t created for me and how easy it is to fall into those traps. It’s easy to back off completely, seclude myself, and promise by force of will to do better.

God hasn’t created me to be a recluse; He’s created community.

He hasn’t created me to stop; He’s offering a fork in the road, a new direction to take.

He hasn’t created me to succeed by my will alone; He’s lending His strength and endurance, more than I could ever need.

That leaves me somewhere in the middle, not wanting to continue this lie of a life but cautious of running too far the wrong way. It does a girl no good to turn away from what God didn’t create her to be…to be something else He hasn’t created.

I’m pursuing a new position, a new posture. Effective immediately. It’s not a journey I imagine I’ll do much talking about after this; talking should not be necessary. And I’m not doing this for you. It’s for me and for the Lord, who is my Shepherd. It does mean some potential changes, though.

You might not see me in some places as much as you used to. In others, you might see me more. I may be quieter for awhile or slower or softer or whatever I happen to be working on in my heart. Maybe it will come off as depression or anguish; it might be. Don’t think that something is wrong. On the contrary, something beautiful is happening.

I know that because it’s already begun. Several nights ago, I prayed the prayer that began this work in me as I saw some significant little things popping up and getting in the way. The distance between my Daddy and I was painfully wide…and growing wider. He took my prayer and turned it into this eye-opening experience and invitation to repentance.

I am accepting that invitation. It’s amazing how quickly things change. I’ve noticed it already in my heart and in my step, in my thoughts and in my tongue. Slowly, but surely, God continues to redeem me. (He’s really awesome that way.)

There is also a profound slowness to everything, this sense of eternity that is hard to describe. And a deep, deep pain resonating throughout the journey. This is an honest death; many things need to die, and they slowly are. The struggle is to now not rush to fill the void left by the departure of unrighteous and unholy living.

It’s ok to be empty. It’s ok to be slow. It’s ok to ponder and muse and wonder about things, to pray earnestly and listen patiently. It’s ok to say nothing and not know everything and just to simply BE.

That may be the hardest part of all of this for me – embracing the emptiness in the growth period where the old has died but the new is not fully formed. But it’s going to be just fine. There is something beautiful about that.

In the midst of the emptiness, the slowness, the wandering, the waiting, the praying, the listening, the restlessness, there is one truth that remains and grips my heart:

It’s all God.

To pursue His life, His purpose in me, to honor Him and live holy and righteous, humble and content, it’s time to live in reckless abandon and sweet surrender.

May God come into my heart and restore and redeem me as I pursue His righteousness and the great design He has for me.


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